Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do Not Politicize the Country's Education Future

(Mingguan Malaysia, 22 November)
Dr. Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Senior Lecturer, National Defence University Malaysia

I was hoping the government will not bow down to the pressure from the Chinese Federation of Associations of Malaysia (Hua Zong) to assist the 60 of the Chinese Independent Secondary School and to recognize the certificates issued (UEC). It is already enough with the existing of over 1300 SJKC and this will be increased from time to time. Separation in the primary school is already a burden for us to strengthen the future. Do we want to continue to divide them when they are in the secondary school? This does not include the IPTS which has a strong race based with a very significant number of enrolments, using the mother tongue as the main language especially in Kajang, Kuala Lumpur and others. I am able to name each one of them. However, I shall not reveal them for the time being. Is this the spirit of 1Malaysia?

In the vernacular schools, the Malay language is taught three times a week. Can they actually master the national language? Do make a research. Just look at only the UPSR results of these students in the Malay language and the transition classes. That is already enough to provide an overview. Then conduct a census in the new villages. Rate the level of the mastery of the national language. I'm not anti-Chinese. I love my race for Allah also created them, too. If I reject them, it also means that I reject Allah that created me as a Chinese. Am I anti-Chinese when I bring up this issue?

Let's debate today for the sake of our future. Hopefully our children and grandchildren will have a better life after this. Their interests must be prioritized against our own interests. In fact, the Minister of Education has full authority to reject all these vernacular schools. However, the power vested was not enforced. Just consider if such tolerance was absent.

Before 1996, we have the Education Act 1961 Section 21 (1B), which empowers the Minister of Education to close or abolish the SJKC / T. This Act made the Chinese associations fearful. They have appealed and urged the government to repeal this act. On the basis of compromising, and in 1995, the education minister made a bold decision by agreeing with the Chinese request to withdraw the power vested or in other words the provision in the act by presenting a new Education Act in 1996 which was more acceptable.

The Education Act 1996 introduced was still not agreeable by a handful of the ultra kiasu. The ultra kiasu considered the amendment of Education Act 1961 to 1996 had actually solved one problem with the repeal of Section 21 (1) (b), but had also created new problems with the addition of Section 17 (1). According to them, Section 17 (1) provides new powers to the Minister of Education to enforce the vernacular schools to use the Malay language as the main medium.

The ultra kiasu argued that the previous act context was within the primary school but the new act allows the ministry to have a wider scope of context from pre-school education to post secondary level education. According to Section 28 of the act, only vernacular schools owned by the state government are granted 'special permission' by the Minister of Education, which may be exempted from the provisions under Section 17 (1).

In fact, the Education Act 1996 also known as Act 550 'is softer' compared to the Education Act 1961 which was repealed. Is this tolerance? The vested power was sacrificed for the sake to accommodate others. For those ultra kiasu who are always opposing with me, please read this act and make a comparison with the previous act. Whoever enacted this act, if it is not for our Prime Minister today which was the then Minister of Education? The Minister of Education before him could not compromise on this at all. Who was that? Just ask the party affiliated with this ultra kiasu. I do not actually understand why they are so good today while before that, the Act 1961 was the most feared by this ultra kiasu.

However, a group of the ultra kiasu is never grateful, let alone appreciative. I do not see any differences in the SJKC with the Chinese schools in China in terms of language, except with the additional Malay subject being taught 3 hours a week. I remembered the words of Khoo Kay Kim that the education system today must meet the requirements to establish the idea of 1Malaysia. The multiple educations system will not help the people to understand the establishment of this great idea. Children are separated from young. When they have grown up, it would be difficult for them to cooperate with each other. The vernacular school was originally established to enable the Chinese and Indian people to learn about the country they originated from. But today they have became the people of Malaysia, thus such situation should not exist anymore. Kay Kim is frustrated with those groups who are defending schools which are race-based.

I am full of anticipation on those who talk a lot about maintaining the vernacular schools would make a complete study on this. Do not always blame the government only. What is really their agenda? If only to defend the heritage of ancestors, please bear in mind on the culture and way of life of others, too. Do not just blame on the language as an issue, because the language issue is a national problem. I hereby ask them to do a research on the performance of the Malay language (BM) in the vernacular schools. First, is the ability and capacity to understand and converse in BM? Second, is the percentage of BM failure? Third, on the problem arises from the transition classes and problems of communication among students in BM. Fourth, on the interactions among students from the transition classes with the Malay students. Fifth, is the failure and low passing rate in BM in the PMR and SPM levels? Sixth, is the understanding and ability on BM after finishing high school? Seventh, is the ability to speak BM among the non-Malays? If it is still not feasible to make a study, then take a sample of several political leaders and NGOs which are vocal, including lecturers from the Chinese institutions and test their ability on BM?

We were extremely disappointed when recently, as reported in the Chinese newspapers that a few Chinese organizations such as Dong Zong, Hua Zong, the Association of Heads of Chinese Schools, Chinese Schools Alumni Association and other Chinese associations were strongly against the proposal by the Ministry of Education to standardize the BM syllabus in SK and SJKC. For your information, the BM syllabus in SJKC is very much easier than SK. That was how united they are. When studying BM, they want it to be simple & easy (cincai). Instead, in studying own language, it must be in detail. Are we seriously strengthening the country? Isn't this ultra kiasu? Are we still blind and unconscious? Simple reasoning; the students of SJKC must not be burdened with BM which is relatively difficult because they had to learn three languages, namely Mandarin as a major, BM as a second language and English as a third language. This is the fate of the Malay language in the Malay land. Have we realized that BM is the easiest language in the world? Obviously BM is difficult if only taught three times a week at the SJKC. Are we serious?

I do not deny there are some Chinese students who managed to get excellent results in the Malay language, but the number is very small. That is also because it is a compulsory subject to pass. Imagine if it is not a compulsory subject. Is the learning of the Malay language is because of being forced or for loving the language as spirit of national identity? Please consider. There is no need to uphold a wet strand of thread for our children will face a greater loss later and we will not be there. Do not let our ego today destroy our future interests.

To the ultra kiasu I would like to ask them to give me an example of a country in the world that practices such a system as ours? If there is I will yield. I will not touch the issue on vernacular educations. Is this not heaven for us in here? Do not always use diversity as strength of argument or unity within diversity. Too much diversity will also not benefit. We need to find more similarities to meet the goal of establishing the idea of 1Malaysia. The similarities can only be achieved with a shared goal of the national vision. It starts with sharing the one school system, without denying the rights of everyone respectively. If issues such as the basic language we cannot agree on, what else can we agree on? In short, the one school system is only a fantasy if we continue to be soft. Kiasu is permissible. It is not wrong to be kiasu. In fact, Islam permits it also. But just do not be ultra kiasu. We are Chinese but don't be too ultra Chinese, ultra Malay, ultra India and other ultra races in Sabah and Sarawak. That is already extreme and excessive.

I am also not denying the fact that the vernacular school teachers are hardworking and dedicated. But that does not mean that we can make a generalization that the national school teachers are not of the same standards as with the SJKC. Remember! It is not all teachers in SJKC are good. I had my experienced. I'm neither a Chinese converted to Malay nor a Chinese apostate. I am only defending the interests of the future of our children and our great-great-grandchildren. Do not politicize the education because it is extremely dangerous for the future of the country. Do not deny the role of the government on capital assistance schools such as SJKC. Please be reminded that more than 400 SJKC is aided and built by the government in every Malaysia plan.

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